Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ancient British DNA sequenced, shows Britians are one-third Anglo-Saxon

Following the recent news of the sequencing of ancient Irish DNA, we now have news of the first whole genome sequencing of an ancient British genome.  A paper in the journal Nature Communications details how a team led by Dr. Stephen Schiffels of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge sampled the DNA of 10 skeletons ranging in burial date from 100 B.C. to 700 A.D.  By comparing the genomes to modern British samples found in the 1000Genomes project and other sources, the team was able to get an idea of how ancient migrations influenced the average modern British genome.

Britian has seen a number of migratory waves over its history, from the Romans to the Vikings to the Anglo-Saxons and finally the Normans.  Each of these waves left a genetic contribution in the modern British genome.  But exactly how influential each wave was on British genetics was largely unknown.  Comparing modern British genomes to populations in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands descended from the Angles and Saxons did not lead to conclusive evidence of the amount British inherited from these common ancestral groups.

The samples in this study cover a time period from before and during the Anglo-Saxon immigration.   By comparing rare genetic markers in the ancient samples to those of modern British genomes, the researchers concluded that on average 25–40% of the ancestry of modern Britons was contributed by Anglo-Saxon immigrants.

Full paper: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2016/160119/ncomms10408/full/ncomms10408.html

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